Is English a Beautiful Language to You?
Trust me when I say that I've been mind-boggled by English. I have spent a lot of my time just thinking of how English is, how it sounds, how it's written, how it just is how it is. All factors that lead to one question: Is English beautiful?
I've asked multiple people this question and pretty much all of them had said the same thing: No, it's not. Even native speakers admit and do not feel bad admitting that their language lacks beauty. Again, this is what they've said when I asked them.
How do I see English? Well first, English is my second language after Spanish. I'm fluent in English and I use it every single day of my life. I use it so much, I'm much more fluent in it than my native language, for it is deteriorating. So I have a complicated relationship with it. I hate this I use it so much because I'm forgetting Spanish.
So, sometimes I feel like I want to make English beautiful to distract myself from this. I'm not sure how, but I always want to.
In simple words, I see English as a mandatory language. I believe it's one if not the most professional language. Professional. It's the world's lingua franca, world leaders use it to conduct business with each other, it's the language of business! Non-anglophones feel like they have to learn it to get around and communicate, so it's an obligation to them.
So its professionalism and its obligation take away from its beauty. "I'm sorry, I'm too busy being professional that I have no time to sound melodic or pretty to the ears." I've even heard it being referred to the language that sounds like tin.
Personally, I absolutely adore the variations, the dialects of the English language. People from different countries where their English is so much more than just standard American or British English. It's a twist, a surprise, a gift given to English. Whenever I hear them, I believe English is gorgeous. I may add that personally, I feel that a British accent (yes, I know there are tons of accent within the British Isles) an Australian, New Zealand one, add an extra touch of beauty to the language. If it's plain American, this is just me perhaps, it's very... unembellished. And I speak American English.
But I've never heard ANYONE say, "I'm learning English because it just sounds so pretty. It's quite romantic and exotic, it just reels me in!" But of course, there may be some that have.
Is it simply because it's the world's common language? We hear it so much even if it's not one's mother tongue that it just leaves it to dry out? Would any language be like this if it was our lingua franca? Like if Japanese was hypothetically our common language, would it too, be "displeasing to the ear"? Or because of how it was made and how it sounds, it's naturally just too nice for someone to say it's just for "business purposes. Nothing else."
I don't mean to bash on English, for I'm not saying it's an ugly language. It just simply lacks the intriguing effect that many other languages have. But it is in no way ugly. I wanted to ask a bigger sample of people, so I ask:
To you, is English beautiful?
If so, why?
If not, why not?
If it's not your native language, why did you learn it?
How would you describe English?
Thank you for reading my rant, and I hope I can get some answers!
Discussions like this are great.
I like the sound of the shorter, Germanic words in English, like sky, hill, milk, soul, cloud, fill, star, seed, sweet, hot, cold, home, sand, mill, sad, blood, stream, etc.
Some rhyming word groups have a nice ring to them: follow, shallow, hollow, fallow, billow, or mantle, sandal, candle, spindle, shingle, handle or sweet, meet, greet, sleet, street, wheat.
But when these words are mixed with longer, largely Romance-origin words, they lose (what I perceive to be) their rustic beauty.
'The scholar drank warm milk from a glass as he watched the skies for the forecast shooting star'
'The astronomer, consuming a tepid dairy product from a vessel, observed the celestial sphere in anticipation of the predicted meteorite.'
English is like that - you can make it sound very raw and wholesome, or make it sound technical and sophisticated. Not all languages have that capability.
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, or in this case in his ears.
I was raised in a French/Dutch environment and learned English later on. But we are so immersed in English culture everyday that it is hard to avoid speaking the language. Personally I love how it sounds, especially in songs, and how simple yet poetic it can be. In French literature or songs things always have this tendency to lean towards the pedantic side of the language. And concerning Dutch... well let's say pretty much 90% of the music is in English, on top of an already small cultural output since the Dutch plus Flemish population is quite limited. I do love some songs and books in both languages though, it's just not the same feeling.
Well, I speak it as my second language. Have been learning it for years. I get that for some people English is just an ordinary one since it's the most common language in the world after all. But I still remember my first impression the first time I listened to it. English sounds very cool, that's for sure. It seems very academic as well since in my country if you're fluent people would praise you so much and immediately assume that you're smart. Overall, for me it's definitely beautiful just like any other languages in the world. I basically have to learn it because it's part of my education, but I'm lucky because I love it personally.
I think business is not usually the right place to look for skillful use of English. Many people who conduct business do not speak English at a near-native level which means that communication tends to be limited to relatively basic vocabulary. In addition, if it gets the point across, it's good enough in most situations and business people like efficiency so there is not a lot of incentive to adorn it. English has a very rich vocabulary however, hence there is potential for it to be poetic if one wants to use it that way. In short, it depends on the user and their aspirations. Regarding accents, British sounds a bit more melodious to me than American but there are many languages that sound much more melodious than English still. Comparing English to my native language (Dutch) I'd say that English sounds more melodious because one can make it flow somewhat. Dutch does not sound very melodious to me because our punctuation marks and word endings kill the rhythm so it doesn't flow very well.
English is my second language and I've learned it initially because it was mandatory in high school and I needed it to understand a game I played at the time. I now need it to be successful in my university studies and probably to succeed in my career when I graduate. All my textbooks are written in English, there are very few academic papers written in Dutch and English is used increasingly to communicate with the world. It is pretty much the lingua franca of the academic world and those with academic education.
If you feel that your Spanish is deteriorating, why not try keeping up contacts with Spanish-speaking friends and relatives, keep notes in Spanish and switch between English and Spanish radio/television? This will help you stay fluent.
I find English beautiful. (I am a native speaker of American English). It has a HUGE capacity to be expressive, even to minute changes in degree. (So many synonyms! But, even those words cannot be carelessly swapped in or out in place of the others, because they have slight differences in connotation.) That very fact illustrates the history of it's native speakers. War, conquest, trade, colonization, English is riddled with the memories of them. I am not enamored with the violence that has shaped my native language. But, I am enamored with the language itself. Perhaps it is because I love to read so much. And through that, I have tasted many approaches to how people are using English to deliver narratives, adjusting their word choices to control for flavor.
Here is a list of some foreign language influences on English. I was looking for a specific example, but, I can't find it and my brain is pretty tired right now.
I speak American English and I do not find the sound of it to be beautiful.
However, it is good for nuance and poetry. English has many words that mean almost the same thing but with a slightly different flavor or overtone, so it is a rich descriptive language. A good writer can create magic with English.
I cannot say, maybe because I've known English since childhood. I grew up mostly with American English of the Hollywood variety. It sounds... normal. More beautiful than German, but not as nice as Italian. But, just like in the case of my L1 Romanian, I cannot really pinpoint its sound.
What I can say is that the Queen's English (as spoken by Her Majesty, or Tony Blair) always sounded really formal to me, almost as if it were suited for special occasions.
I don't really think any language taken as a whole is more or less beautiful compared to any other - I think it is far more down to the individual. English can be spoken beautifully or it can be butchered, it can sound wonderful coming from the mouth of a non native speaker and it can sound like a mangled record when slurred by a local. So no I don't think it is beautiful sounding in and of itself, it's just that it can be spoken beautifully.
I don't see English as particularly beautiful, but since it is my native language when I hear the sounds I instantly think of the meaning rather than the sound. I think it is easier for those not fluent in a language to appreciate the beauty of how it sounds than native speakers who immediately attach meaning to the words. The grass is always greener in the other language.
Many English speakers, myself included see the Romance Languages as beautiful, but I noticed as I learned more Spanish I appreciated the beauty of the language less, yet I still appreciate the beauty of Italian, because although I know some Italian as well, I am less familiar with it than I am with Spanish.
When I started to learn English I had only been listening to music, but when I heard the language spoken by an actual person I fell in love immediately. For me, the English language is a pretty way to express myself. I find some words prettier than others,such "primal".it sounds so colorful when spoken.
I've been learning English language as my 2nd language since I was about 7 years old, which is very long, but I still make mistakes. I think English can be beautiful, however I am so overwhelmed with the amount of English language in the modern world that I try to distance myself from it.
As a native speaker, I can't say that I find the English language beautiful. To me, English is this weird Frankenstein's monster of a few different languages and quite a few of the words that made it through to modern times intact don't fit together as originally intended. As a result it fairly frequently breaks its own grammatical rules and it doesn't flow in the same manor that other, more elegant languages do.
With norwegian as my first, no. I do not find it beautiful. I learned it only because it was useful, and I find it to be a practical, precise language.
In songs or poetry, it has the potential to sound beautiful, but I think that may be because of the immense amount of words it has.
It's not necessarily ugly, but not beautiful either. Somewhere in the middle, maybe?
I don't believe that's true at all. First off, what is "American English"? Boiling down all of the regional differences and dialects found in America to just "American English" may be why you view it as plain. I don't think it's plain at all! The American people have come into contact with (and originate from) so many different parts of the world that our language has been infused with languages from all over the world, making it rich and complex.
As a native I would say that the elegance of English comes less from its sound as its depth. It has such a rich lexicon, with so many synonyms and nuanced meanings and such variety of sounds available to the speaker, that it has incredible potential to be beautiful if the right words are chosen. From the mouth of the right speaker, too.
It is not a beautiful language, but I think it is a fantastic medium to create beauty in.
I've never thought of English as "beautiful".
I don't know if Italians think their language is beautiful, but I really like how "i miei" sounds.
In fact, I was listening to a recording of Enrico Caruso singing in Italian. The only thing I understood was "i miei" of his singing. I listened to him singing "Over there" in English, for an American audience. I understood, of course. I bet if he'd have sang it in Italian instead, it would have sounded more beautiful than in English, even though his beautiful tenor voice was the same, no matter what language he sang in.
First things first, we've got to have some criteria to define or pinpoint "beauty". I'm going to explain mine then I'd be able to explicate why I find English an adorable language. Beauty, especially in relation to a language, is the ability of that given language and the means it gives you to express yourself. English is an affluent language through its flexibility and openness to borrow new words and make them its own. English has made the most of linguistic assets of the world. How? I'd like to instantiate a words that English intriguingly accommodated it into its lexicon. And that is the adjective "serendipitous". The story behind this word is nothing short of a wonder. English makes you able to say what you want as diverse and sundry as possible. In terms of sound, I find British English or RP kind of it really endearing! American English sounds ugly and harsh to me and I cannot help it.
I know this post is two years old, but I wanted to put my two cents in. As a native speaker, I don't exactly find English pretty, but not ugly either. It just exists. Before I started my language learning journey, I would forget that I was using or understanding English. Your native language can be like a heart beat or a breath. Something you do and don't really think too much about. The more I dive into linguistics, the more I begin to find all languages fascinating in their own ways, even my own. I've been listening to The History of English Podcast, and the more I listen, the more I love my native language. One thing that makes me love English, is the people that are often regarded as crude and uneducated. The certain population in the Southern United States and particularly the Appalachians, that people look down their noses at. When I asked a coworker why he didn't like them he said "they just, they just seem so uneducated!" That is a very flimsy answer to me. That's like saying you don't like someone just because they don't have the Periodic Table of Elements memorized, but you haven't gotten to know them. The way these people speak is a source of criticism towards them, but to me, I love it! I love their folksy sayings and idioms, like calling a paper bag a "poke," and a road with striping on it a "painted road." it's adorible and all around wonderful. I don't know if I exactly find English to be beautiful, but some of the people that speak it are beautiful to me in their own rustic way. I have an effection for it, especially those dialects which people frown on. :)
You make some good points but I genuinely, genuinely do find it beautiful. There's no right answer here, and I might be being ridiculously patriotic, but having studied languages at university (and lived in other countries than my native Britain) there are some objective reasons to say it is 'technically' more beautiful than some other European languages. If we compare it with, say, French (and I love French/France too), you can say: - the system of stresses is way less rigid, which is why a lot of our pop music lyrics demonstrably just 'flow' more. (Even more so with Italian. My boyfriend's lovely dad often goes into long Italian monologues on car journeys and I can't help falling asleep, so precisely structured are the stresses into one non-changing rhythm. Not so in English.) - in British accents, there are a lot fewer 'harsh' sounds at the end of words. See -gh, -th, -ious. Maybe it's our often slightly un-self-assured (good and bad) national traits, but our pronunciation is similarly... stressless. Or at least unforthcoming! And there is arguably some strange beauty in that! - it has way more lexical choices for each meaning (compare each side of a French/English dictionary...). Historically, within English/England (not sadly Welsh or colonially etc), the language was allowed way more growth than that of our counterparts in France where there have been literally highly formalised attempts to maintain 'proper' French for centuries - see L'Academie Francais. In early stages this took the form of systematically trying to eliminate dialects. I would never defend Britain's historical honour as a nation, but our native 'folk'/working class history is the beautiful part, not the precious attempts at Queen's English, as it actually is in many countries. It's always enriching when a regional voice has fought hard against oppressive aristocratic ones and, as is the case, won.